A popular song of the Paiwan indigenous people of Taiwan

Teresa Song

Translated by Molly Grogan

Translated from:
Un chant populaire des aborigènes Paiwan de Taïwan


Electronic reference

Teresa Song, « A popular song of the Paiwan indigenous people of Taiwan », Revue Quart Monde [Online], 251 | 2019/3, Online since 01 March 2020, connection on 12 November 2019. URL : https://www.revue-quartmonde.org/8238

This article presents the results of fieldwork the author completed on The Ballad of the Forest Workers, a popular song sung traditionally by indigenous woodcutters who undertook backbreaking work far from home to escape poverty.

As Taiwan’s economy began to grow in the early 1960s, the National Forestry Department was in desperate need of laborers. Subsistence indigenous farmers accepted the work of cutting forests and planting new ones in Taiwan’s high mountainous regions. The forestland was vast and remote, and these newly minted woodcutters lived for long periods in makeshift camps far from their villages, working in extremely difficult conditions. To pass the time, ease their homesickness and forget the poverty that led them into this backbreaking work, they gathered around the campfire at night to drink and play the guitar. Taking turns, each worker would improvise a line about the family, spouse or lover left behind in the village, creating over time a song in Paiwan that is still known today as The Ballad of the Forest Workers.

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Teresa Song

Teresa Song is a Paiwan aborigine of Taiwan. She researched indigenous songs of Taiwan at the University of Taidong-Department of Austronesian Studies.